World number one Naomi Osaka came through a tricky test against Greece’s Maria Sakkari to reach round two at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.
Osaka, who before the tournament said she was “not really that comfortable” on grass, had looked in early control before battling to a 6-1 4-6 6-4 win.
The Japanese 21-year-old will face Yulia Putintseva next after the Kazakh beat British wildcard Harriet Dart.
“I was kind of screaming on the inside during that entire match,” Osaka said.
“I got lucky a little bit I guess. I knew she was going to be a very difficult opponent.”
US and Australian Open champion Osaka found herself 0-40 on her serve at 2-2 in the final set but, after saving six break points in a near 10-minute game, finally held.
It proved pivotal as she went on to break the Greek world number 33 in the following game before holding to love and then going on to seal victory on her first match point as the clock ticked past two hours.
Britain’s Dart was well beaten by Putintseva, who is ranked 114 places above the British world number 157, losing 6-1 6-4.
The 22-year-old Briton had a glimmer of hope when she broke early in the second set but could not match Putintseva’s consistency.
Twins to meet in second round
Czech identical twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova, 27, will meet for the first time at a WTA event, with Kristyna beating Viktoriya Tomova 6-3 6-4 to join her sister in the second round.
Right-handed world number three Karolina and left-handed world number 112 Kristyna have played against each other at lower levels, with head-to-heads tied at 4-4, but their last meeting was in Grenoble in 2012.
“It’s very strange to play her,” Kristyna said. “We share a bedroom this tournament. It’s family, so you don’t want something bad [for her] but still I want to win as well. So I’m not really happy about it.”
Eighth seed Julia Gorges is also through to the second round after coming from behind to beat Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 3-6 6-4 6-3.
British number one Johanna Konta, who beat Anett Kontaveit on Monday, found out her second-round opponent will be former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko after the Latvian took just 52 minutes to beat Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek 6-0 6-2.
Play was suspended at the Edgbaston Priory Club soon after Osaka’s win because of raining, meaning seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams will play her opener against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich on
The rain led to a washout at the men’s grass-court event at Queen’s.
Sharapova wins on return from injury
In one of the other pre-Wimbledon grass-court events, five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova made a winning return from injury in the first round of the Mallorca Open, beating Viktoria Kuzmova 7-6 (10-8) 6-0.
The Russian former world number one has not played since the end of January because of a shoulder injury and has dropped to number 85 in the rankings.
She will face top seed Angelique Kerber in the next round after the Wimbledon champion beat Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 7-5 4-6 6-2.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka lost 1-6 6-4 7-5 to French sixth seed Caroline Garcia.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport